Okay, so I couldn’t wait to use my entry into the “worst pun on Hue” contest. I’ve hit the midpoint in my journey here, and now instead of on my way to Vietnam, I’m on my way home. And its a technicality that my home is in Palo Alto, not San Jose.
This is a poignant afternoon, because the thunderstorm came early and actually sprinkled a few drops of rain on Hue. I was sitting at my “usual” cafe, drinking a coffee Sinh To (think blended ice, sugar, and coffee beans), reflecting on my journey so far. I’m addicted to this drink (thanks, Doug – like I needed another addiction), and comes in any flavor as long as it is natural.
Regarding my addictions, I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to get through most of the mornings without coffee, but the ready availability of Wrigley’s gum (darn that capitilistic imperialism) has resulted in my 4 pieces a day gum habit becoming a standard in Vietnam as well.
Tomorrow I head off to Hoi An, leaving behind me the friends and places of Hanoi and Hue that I have come to know and be comfortable with. In front of me is a typical backpacker itenerary of several two or three night stands before I end up in Saigon. These types of stops are always harder for me, as I miss what I achieve staying someplace longer, such as knowing the street vendors, the cafe operators, the hotel workers, xe om drivers, and other folks that I can wave and smile to knowing that I’m not just a new face in the crowd. I’m not fooling myself. I’ll move on sooner or later and they know it, but it is a neat feeling when you walk out of your hotel and you feel like you’re walking out into something familiar and comfortable, not foreign and unknown. That is when I truly relax, which is what this trip is all about. Feeling rested is getting harder for me as I get older, and I think I’m finally getting there with a combination of low stress, afternoon naps, and cheap beer.
There are also the times when I wish I wasn’t here, mostly when I try to walk the city at night but end up being interrupted at least once a minute by cycle drivers and xe om drivers wanting to take me someplace, usually somewhere that has “loud music” and “pretty girls cheap”. I need to find a female traveling companion just so I can walk the streets unmolested!
The rain here in the city was interesting, as I watched ponchos come out of nowhere. Suddenly almost all of the moto drivers were wearing ponchos, with the front over the front of the moto (including the handlebars) and the back covering the cargo or passenger. The passengers seemed to choose between being completely covered (they don’t make two head holes) or just covering their shoulders to keep their heads in the fresh air. The shops secured their doors against the gusts of wind, the street vendors covered their goods with tarps, and the sidewalk barber simply walked across the street to seek shelter while his chair and mirror got wet. The rain stops, and all is back to normal but with a delightful breeze and decidedly cooler temperatures.
This is what I enjoy about traveling. Making friends, learning the language and culture, and simply observing everyday life. However, it is hard when traveling by yourself to not seek out other travelers for easier same-language companionship, and for the first time on this trip I have no contacts going forward. It should be an interesting journey towards home, and already the “just two more weeks” idea is going through my head. I figure that it would only be around another $300 to stay two more weeks, and that seems ridiculously small. So who knows, maybe I’ll be heading to Laos for a while….